Professors Stupp and Luijten Publish New Paper in Science Magazine

Soft structures in nature such as protein assemblies can organize reversibly into functional and often hierarchical architectures through noncovalent interactions. Molecularly encoding this dynamic capability in synthetic materials has remained an elusive goal. “Reversible Self-Assembly of Superstructured Networks” published in Science, reports on bio-inspired materials with dynamic properties developed in Samuel Stupp’s lab.  The hydrogels of peptide-DNA conjugates or peptides organize into superstructures of intertwined filaments that disassemble upon the addition of molecules or changes in charge density. Experiments and simulations demonstrate that this response requires large-scale spatial redistribution of molecules directed by strong noncovalent interactions among them. Simulations performed by Erik Luijten’s group also suggest that the chemically reversible structures can only occur within a limited range of supramolecular cohesive energies. Mechanical properties of the hydrogels change reversibly as superstructures form and disappear, as does the phenotype of neural cells in contact with these materials.

The experimental work was funded primarily by the US Department of Energy and the computational work by the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health. Additional support for the synthesis and characterization of peptide-DNA conjugates was provided by the Center for Bio-Inspired Energy Science  (CBES), an Energy Frontiers Research Center (EFRC) funded by the US Department of Energy, Office of Science. Biological experiments were funded by the Center for Regenerative Nanomedicine at the Simpson Querrey Institute.

Read the full article Here.

CBES Investigator Danna Freedman Awarded 2019 ACS Award in Pure Chemistry

CBES Principal Investigator Danna Freedman has been recognized by the American Chemical Society for her achievements in Pure Chemistry. Recipients of the award  will be honored at the awards ceremony on Tuesday, April 2, 2019, in conjunction with the 257th ACS National Meeting in Orlando. Nominations are being accepted for the 2020 national awards through Nov. 1. For more information, visit

Northwestern receives $15 million for Department of Energy Frontier Research Centers

Northwestern University research initiatives have received a cumulative $15 million from the Department of Energy (DOE) for the most recent funding round of the national Energy Frontier Research Centers (EFRC) program. The two selected proposals from Northwestern, the Center for Bio-Inspired Energy Science (CBES) and the Center for Light Energy Activated Redox Processes (LEAP), were among 42 programs collectively funded for $100 million to accelerate scientific understanding in energy-relevant fields.

This is the second EFRC renewal for CBES (formerly NERC) since its inception in 2009.  Read the full press release HERE.

New Professorship Honors Mark and Nancy Ratner

For 43 years, materials chemist Mark A. Ratner ’69 PhD has served on the faculty of Northwestern University’s Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences. Now a new endowed professorship will honor his legacy in perpetuity.  The Mark and Nancy Ratner Professorship was established this spring in recognition of a $2 million gift to Weinberg College from Ratner, his wife, Nancy, and his brothers and sisters-in-law, Charles and Ilana Horowitz Ratner, James and Susan Ratner, and Ronald and Deborah Ratner (’06, ’14 P).  Emily Weiss ’05 PhD, a faculty member in the Department of Chemistry and former student of Ratner’s, was invested as the inaugural Ratner Professor in a ceremony in Harris Hall on June 6. The gift is part of We Will. The Campaign for Northwestern.  The funds raised through the “We Will” Campaign are helping realize the transformational vision set forth in Northwestern’s strategic plan and solidifying the University’s position among the world’s leading research universities. More information on We Will. The Campaign for Northwestern is available at


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New method uses DNA, Gold Nanoparticles and Top-Down Lithography to Fabricate Optically Active Structures

Northwestern University researchers, including CBES Principal Investigator Chad Mirkin, have developed a first-of-its-kind technique for creating entirely new classes of optical materials and devices that could lead to light bending and cloaking devices.  Using DNA as a key tool, the interdisciplinary team took gold nanoparticles of different sizes and shapes and arranged them in two and three dimensions to form optically active superlattices. Structures with specific configurations could be programmed through choice of particle type and both DNA-pattern and sequence to exhibit almost any color across the visible spectrum.

The full press release and link to the publication can be found HERE.

Mirkin and Glotzer Lab's Research Feartured on Cover of NNI's Supplement to President's 2018 Budget

Images from a joint CBES collaboration between the groups of Northwestern's Chad Mirkin and University of Michigan's Sharlon Glotzer have been featured on the front and back covers of The National Nanotechnology Initiative's Supplement to the President's 2018 Budget.

The images are based on a recent publication in Science (full publication can be found HERE) in which CBES researchers created colloidal analogs of clathrates in which bipyramidal gold nanoparticles functionalized with DNA molecules assembled into polyhedral clusters to create open-pore structures. These clathrate colloidal crystals exhibit extraordinary structural complexity and substantially broaden both the scope and the possibilities provided by DNA-inspired methodologies.  The back cover shows a simulation of assembled gold nanoparticles, and the front cover depicts the same structure in a ball-and-stick layout to highlight the cage arrangement.

Congratulations to the Mirkin and Glotzer Labs for this accomplishment!

Follow the link below to view a digital version of the budget:

NNI Supplement to President's 2018 Budget

We have a Quorum

From the smallest cell to humans, most organisms can sense their local population density and change behavior in crowded environments. For bacteria and social insects, this behavior is referred to as “quorum sensing.” Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh’s Swanson School of Engineering have utilized computational modeling to mimic such quorum sensing behavior in synthetic materials, which could lead to devices with the ability for self-recognition and self-regulation.

The findings are based on research into biomimetic synthetic materials by CBES PI Anna C. Balazs, Distinguished Professor of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering, and post-doctoral associate Henry Shum, who is now an assistant professor of applied mathematics at the University of Waterloo.

The full article can be read HERE.

Most Complex Nanoparticle Crystal Ever Made by Design

Sharon C. Glotzer and Chad A. Mirkin, along with members of their CBES groups, have recently published their study titled "Clathrate Colloidal Crystals" in Science.  This study demonstrates that some of nature’s most complicated structures can be deliberately assembled if researchers can control the shapes of the particles and the way they connect using DNA.  The work performed was a collaborative effort between researchers at Northwestern University and the University of Michigan, and described as "a great example of what can be achieved by experimentalists and simulators teaming up," by Glotzer.

The Northwestern press release can be viewed HERE.

Stacey Chin Nominated as EFRC Early Career Network Representative

CBES Member Stacey Chin has been nominated as an Energy Frontier Reserach Center (EFRC) Early Career Network (ECN) Representative.  The EFRC ECN has planned many successful events for the EFRC community.  These include virtual webinars on Collaborative Technologies, Academic Interviews, Grant Writing, and Start-ups, as well as meet-ups at the Spring MRS, Spring ACS, March APS, and Fall MRS meetings. 

Stacey will be co-leading a subcommittee that is planning a panel event on diversity and underrepresentation in STEM as well as participating in another committee that is planning social excursions during the EFRC PI meeting in July.

Oliver Dumele accepts Leopoldina Postdoctoral Scholarship

CBES member Oliver Dumele of the Stupp Group has recently been offered and accepted the Leopoldina Postdoctoral Fellowship.  The program is aimed at up-and-coming young scientists from German-speaking countries who have already begun conducting independent research in natural science and medicine. Scholarship recipients are given the opportunity to carry out their own independent project abroad at one of the most renowned research institutes in their field.  Oliver has demonstrated exceptional research ability and scientific achievement with his continued work on CBES projects. 

More information on the Leopoldina Postdoctoral Scholarship program can be found on their website.